Item of the Day: An Answer to the Narrative of Sir Henry Clinton (1783)

Full Title: An Answer to That Part of the Narrative of Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Clinton, K.B. Which relates to the conduct of Lieutenant-General Earl Cornwallis, during the Campaign in North-America, in the Year 1781. By Earl Cornwallis. London: Printed for J. Debrett, (Successor to Mr. Almon,) opposite Burlington-House, Piccadilly, M.DCC.LXXXIII. [1783]

 

THE

INTRODUCTION.

THE feelings, which dictate this publication, have originated from the contents of a Narrative, signed by Sir Henry Clinton, late Commander in Chief in America. In which Narrative events are attributed to my conduct during the campaign of 1781, which, I trust, it will appear, were by no means the unavoidable consequences of any part of it.

The materials, hitherto produced, cannot be deemed complete, either in form or substance. There were many deficiencies in the papers laid before the House of Lords; in particular, four letters, dated July 24th, August the 16th, 20th, and 22d, from me to Sir Henry Clinton, were wanting; one of which contained my reasons at large for undertaking the march into Virginia: This omission, as the Secretary of State informed the House, was owing to their not having been transmitted by the Commander in Chief. Four other letters (three of them dated the 2d, 27th, and 30th of August, and one the 14th, 15th, and 18th of October) from Sir Henry Clinton to me, were read to the Lords, according to the order of their dates; although they were only delivered to me, by the Secretary to the Commander in Chief, in the latter end of November, at New-York, above a month after my surrender; and consequently, their contents could not influence my conduct in any manner.

I own I am pefectly aware of the impropriety of publishing official letters for private reasons; but, since the measures with respect to America have now undergone a total change, I hope, I shall in some degree stand excused for producing the whole correspondence, in my possession, relative to the principal transactions of that campaign; as it is the most candid and complete mode, in my power, of submitting them to the public consideration.

The perusal of this Correspondence will, I think, render not only the military, but every other reader a competent judge of the propriety of my conduct, either when I acted under positive orders, pressing contingencies, or discretionary powers.

It is foreign to the present purpose, and I shall therefore not endeavour to enumerate the many difficulites, which I had to struggle with, in my command of the Southern district, previous to the march into North Carolina, in the beginning of the year 1781. This measure was thought expedient not only by me, but by the Commander in Chief: I was principally induced to decide in favour of its expediency from a clear conviction, that the men and treasures of Britain would be lavished in vain upon the American war, without the most active exertions of the troops allotted for service; and, that, while the enemy could draw their supplies from North Carolina and Virginia, the defence of the frontier of South Carolina, even against an inferior army, would be from its extent, the nature of the climate, and the dispostion of the inhabitants, utterly impracticable. The many untoward circumstances, which occurred during the four months succeeding the complete victory of Camden, had entirely confirmed me in this opinion. Our hopes of success, in offensive operations, were not founded only upon the efforts of the corps under my immediate command, which did not much exceed three thousand men; but principally, upon the most positive assurances, given by apparently credible deputies and emissaries, that, upon the appearance of a British army in North Carolina, a great body of the inhabitants were ready to join and co-operate with it, in endeavouring to restore his Majesty’s Government.

The disaster fo the 17th of January cannot be imputed to any defect in my conduct, as the detachment was certainly superior to the force against which it was sent, and put under the command of an officer of experience and tried abilities. This misfortune, however, did not appear irretrievable; and to have abandoned, without absolute necessity, the plan of the campaign, would have been ruinous and disgraceful: ruinous, by engaging us in a defensive system, the impracticability of which I have already stated; and disgraceful, because the reasons for the undertaking still existed in their full strength, the public faith was pledged to our friends in North Caroline, and I believed my remaing force to be superior to that under the command of General Greene. That this opinion was well founded, the precipitate retreat of that General from North Carolina, and our victory at Guildford, after his return with Virginian reinforcements, are sufficient proofs.

The unexpected failure of our friends rendered the victory of Guildford of little value. I know that it has been asserted or insinuated that they were not sufficiently tried upon this occasion: But can any dispassionate person believe, that I did not give every encouragement to people of all descriptions to join and assist us, when my own reputation, the safety of the army, and the interests of my country, were so deeply concerned in that junction and assistance? All inducements in my power were made use of without material effect; and every man in the army must have been convinced, that the accounts of our emissaries had greatly exaggerated the number of those who professed friendship for us, as they must have observed, that a very inconsiderable part of them could be prevailed upon to remain with us, or to exert themselves in any form whatever. . . .

 [SEE ALSO: SIR HENRY CLINTON’S NARRATIVE and SIR HENRY CLINTON’S RESPONSE TO CORNWALLIS’ ANSWER]

About these ads

2 Comments

Filed under 1780's, American Revolution, Great Britain, Military, Posted by Caroline Fuchs

2 responses to “Item of the Day: An Answer to the Narrative of Sir Henry Clinton (1783)

  1. Pingback: Item of the Day: Narrative of Lieutenant-General Sir Henry Clinton (1783) « Eighteenth-Century Reading Room

  2. Pingback: Item of the Day: Sir Henry Clinton’s Observations on the Answer of Cornwallis (1783) « Eighteenth-Century Reading Room

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s